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The 80s are my teenage years, my college years. Like all teenagers, I had my dreams that regularly transported me to horizons that showered me with infinite hope. However, as diverse and generous as they were, none of these horizons could make a meeting with Jerry John Rawlings accessible to my dreams one day. Only fate, in its irrational dimension, holds the secret to transforming our dreams, including the most improbable, into reality. All the college students my age at that time received distant but very striking echoes of three names. Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, Jerry John Rawlings from Ghana and Laurent GBAGBO. The former two carried the revolution in fatigues to Burkina Faso and Ghana respectively, while the latter stood intrepidly against the immense Houphouët Boigny in the Ivory Coast. They were then the heroes of our imaginary world whose myth was sometimes constructed from anecdotes told by our teachers just as, if not more, fascinated by these names as we are. These anecdotes, sometimes carried to the limits of exaggeration that escaped our candid consciousness, have helped elevate these people to the rank of true legends for us. However, by its nature, the legend remains in the order of the imaginary, the non-existent and, therefore, the inaccessible. God himself would have made me doubt him if he embodied himself in front of me to tell me that I would meet only one of these three, even in the span of a second of my life. Still, fate will do better thirty years later.
When on April 13, 2011, I crossed the border into Ghana with my heart swelling and bleeding with the intensity of resentment, I was far from imagining that Ghana was going to be the scene of the full fulfillment of my teenage dreams. from the 1980s; although good fortune had already done me an exceptional favor by offering me the opportunity to meet Laurent GBAGBO and, better, to work alongside him.
On Wednesday June 14, 2011, when I took the steep stairs of an old colonial building which opened onto a sort of veranda which served as a secretariat held by an old man, I was unaware that I was entering the sanctuary in this way. would cover with its protective shadow for the next nine years. 15 minutes later, the old man who ran the secretariat ushered me into a soberly furnished hallway and showed me the chair in which I should sit. Barely seated, giant steps hit the floor hard, giving the impression that the old building, yet still solid, was about to crumble under the elephantine weight of said steps which advanced at a martial pace. The creaking of a lock was heard and, suddenly, stood in front of me the huge man whose beard, even bleached, still reproduced the features of the man in the black beret and the sunglasses whose photos had adorned some of the cupboards in our college or high school dormitories. The gravity of the voice, which gave me a “Hello Chief”, and the strength of the handshake, which squeezed my palm and cracked the bones of my knuckles, gave some truth to the legend woven around the man. This man has remained entirely military, I whispered to myself. It’s him, Jerry John Rawlings. After Laurent GBAGBO, I had just met another character from our dream world of adolescents. I had come to introduce myself to him and bring him a certified copy of the letter in which President Laurent GBAGBO had done me the great honor of appointing me, a few days earlier, as his spokesperson. From this first working session, I will not remember much. The strong admiration for the man had captured all my attention and my mind, completely unhooked at the time, made the already complicated dialogue difficult due to the poverty of my English. I could still realize that he had a perfect reading of the Ivorian crisis. He was totally on our side. It was reassuring to find an African political leader who refused to let his mind controlled by the Western media, especially in 2011. He was progressive and anti-imperialist and shared the struggle of President Laurent GBGAGBO. This line, the man kept it and defended it everywhere until cursed Thursday, November 12, 20. He was not satisfied to express his support with the tip of the lips as many others have done just for the sake of conscience . No, Captain Jerry John Rawlings has walked the talk. I remain strongly marked by our meeting on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, one of the darkest days for the freedom of oppressed peoples.The man had just been informed over the phone, by me, that President Laurent GBAGBO was being transferred to The Hague to be presented to the judges of the ICC. He called me to his office immediately. I found him red-eyed with fury, accompanied by the National Security Advisor to the President of the Republic of Ghana. President Atta Mills was absent. President Rawlings was looking for a solution that was impossible. He didn’t want this other deportation. All the paths the two men envisioned brought them to the same sad reality. They had no way of blocking this transfer. When he took his dark glasses and brought them to his strongly contorted face, I realized that the man wanted to hide the outward signs of his painful pain at the moment. He could do nothing to prevent this infamy which was being served on Africa by deporting, once again as in days gone by, “one of the worthy sons of the continent”; this is what he often called President Laurent GBAGBO. He punched the thick walls of his office several times to squeeze out the excess of rage that threatened to explode in his chest. I ardently prayed to God not to receive any. God heard me. He muttered words stifled by heavy exhalations. The man felt really hurt and bruised in his soul. He walked back to his office next to the hall at the same pace as he had left.
President Rawlings not only defended the cause of President Laurent GBAGBO in all forums for almost 10 years, but he placed all Ivorian refugees under the shadow of his winged powers. I was the biggest beneficiary of it. I owe him my life. He saved me and many other refugees from many perilous situations. Faced with the scale of the manhunt waged against me, Rawlings has acted as a shield for my cause, what am I saying, for the cause of President Laurent GBAGBO. My pride is not strong enough to convince me that I weighed anything, even a feather, in this fight. I was just the collateral beneficiary of the great sympathy these two great men had for each other. On August 24, 2012, without President Rawlings, my exile in Ghana would have ended in the worst way, and certainly I would not be of this world anymore. Moreover, from that day on, having measured the extent of the vital risks weighing on me, he decided to make himself accessible to me at any time, by giving me his private telephone number. And he was. He never shied away from his commitment to protect Ivorian refugees. All the cases of threat to the lives of these brought to its attention were treated with the same attention, in its very special way. It will do me the unforgettable honor to visit me in prison. Anything that helped improve the conditions of my detention and make me famous in the small prison environment. I got a lot of respect from both my fellow inmates and the security staff. Because Rawlings leaves no one indifferent in Ghana. Finally, he admitted me to his circle of confidants. It was in this circle that I met Commander Etienne Zongo, former aide-de-camp to Thomas Sankara, a privileged witness to the Burkinabé revolution and its tragic end. Since 1987, after the tragic death of his boss, he too was in exile under the protection of President Rawlings and the no less famous and enigmatic Captain Kojo Tsikata. Thanks to the complicity that had developed between Commander Etienne Zongo and me, I also experienced, as in a kind of return to the past by going back in time, my part of the Burkinabe revolution with the third idol of my adolescence. Unfortunately, my older brother Etienne Zongo died on October 2, 2015, just days after his first trip to his country after 28 years of exile.
Finally, to close the loop, I had the immense privilege of witnessing the last exchanges between President Laurent GBAGBO and President Rawlings. I now know that every word has a meaning beyond its literal meaning.
All in all, although extremely difficult for me and for my family, exile will have brought me a great deal on my journey towards the fullness of fulfillment that every man has a right to expect of himself.My President, my Captain or Flight-Lieutenant, I had dreamed of paying you this tribute in Ivory Coast, in front of my parents and especially in front of your brother, President Laurent GBAGBO. It was also the dream of all Ivorian exiles and refugees who found protection and paternal love in you. Those who have returned and those who are still here are heartbroken by your unexpected departure to the Father. But alas, it is unfortunately the tricks of fate that make it possible to understand the infinity and indefiniteness of God. I couldn’t imagine for a moment that our last family meeting in Keytia, at our mother’s funeral, would have been the last. Your usual vigor and the deep tone of your voice could not predict the terrible news of this Thursday, November 12, 2020. You could certainly have waited, just a little, to meet your brother and thus taste the joy of your commitment to the cause fair. You deserve a popular tribute in Ivory Coast. But, on a personal level, I promise you, I will bear the testimony that I owe you to your wife and to your four children who have become part of my family. Do you remember the project I submitted to you which consisted of writing your memoirs with you so that they would be published in both English and French. You told me to wait a bit for you to discuss it with your wife, who has a sharper, sharper memory. I will continue this project with her. This will be my contribution to the promotion of your fight for our continent which so badly needs benchmarks. We love you, but we know that for what you have been for your country, for your continent and for the poor Ivorian refugees, God loves you more than we do. He suddenly called you back for reasons only he knew.
Now that you have entered the incorruptible world, continue to watch over your country Ghana, on your continent. Continue to plead for the just cause of your brother to our Creator, the true Justice. I learned a lot from you. That’s why I’m just saying thank you, thank you for everything.
Ivorian refugees in Ghana and elsewhere say thank you, Medase, Akpeloo, Thank you very much.
Sincere and filial consideration
Minister Justin Katinan KONE or, to stay glued to the expressions you used to call me, Chief or GBAGBO Boy.
President of the FPI Coordination in exile

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